Last month, AIG CEO Robert Benmosche told the Wall Street Journal that the public anger over AIG's post-bailout bonus structure was akin to lynching "sort of what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]."
"And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong," he told the Journal.
His comments — buried in the report and picked up by Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum — prompted Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings to call for Benmosche's firing.
Today, Benmosche met with Cummings and "apologized for [his] reference to the South and the impact that it had on him and others."
AIG released the following statement from Benmosche on why he seemingly equated the "vilification" of AIG to historical extrajudicial murder.
I explained to Rep. Cummings that I was responding to a reporter’s question about certain actions I felt were wrong at the time of the financial crisis: that what stood out to me was the enormous fear AIG employees felt about their safety and the safety of their families because people in positions of public responsibility were actively encouraging the vilification of our people.
I expressed my belief that people should never encourage public anger against any group – for any reason – and that the vilification of a person or a group of people is not right. It’s never right, and when it happens it should not be trivialized or dismissed lightly, as it too often was in the context of AIG. And when I referred to the South, I unintentionally trivialized a horrible legacy of our country. That was the opposite of my intent.
"I look forward to continued dialogue. AIG repaid America every dollar plus a profit of $22.9 billion – a total of $205 billion – and every one of our employees is committed to making sure AIG stands for what’s right about this great country," he concluded.
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